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Trip Reports 2024-04-26-Ruahines

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Top Gorge Hut

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Top Gorge Hut Photo: Paul McCredie

This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 96, no 5, June2024

Top Gorge Hut loop

26 April 2024

A typical Ruahine rain-laden gale rocked the hut all morning. We were pinned down but in no particular hurry to go anywhere. After an epic battle over the windy Ngamoko tops the previous afternoon, we’d stumbled into Longview Hut well after dark, somewhat shell shocked.

Longview Hut with choppered-in firewood, good internet and a light-filled interior is a haven in a storm. But that was until we got trounced in Five Hundred by Bryce and Vaughan, a canny father and son hunting duo sustained by nothing but sausages and bacon. Sarah had had enough, ‘The sun’s come out, can’t we bag Top Gorge without being smashed by the wind?’ A quick search of (did I mention how good the internet is in the Ruahine Range?) suggested we could do a loop via Rocky Knob to Top Gorge Hut and back up the Pohangina River. That way we’d have less than half an hour of exposure to the gales along the ridge.

As soon as he knew there was river travel, Franz was in, as were the (possibly misguided) hunters. Off we went, with a tail wind blowing us easily over Rocky Knob. In the saddle we spotted a waratah signposting the turn off down a gulch. As described perfectly in the guide, we pushed through scrub and long grass, traversing an open slope before crossing to the true right of the creek. Some cut branches indicated a way through the leatherwood and bush before we scrambled and slivered down a bank into the Pohangina River.

From there it was a straightforward half hour of boulder hopping downstream to Top Gorge Hut, set on a wide, sunny arc of the river. [Photo: back page]. Another pair from the previous night at Longview were already installed, had the fire blazing and cheerfully offered up a cuppa with our lunch.

Some ominous black clouds were building as we set off back up the Pohangina. Drizzle set in, making the wet rock a scrambling test of our concentration. By the time we reached our previous entry point, the rain had well and truly set in.

Fortunately the river valley now opened up, shingle flats and grassy banks making for faster travel despite the now horizontal rain. Sarah put her hood up and the pedal down. The hunters with their rifle and heavy camo gear were getting first-hand experience of what walking at a fast clip for no apparent reason feels like.

After an hour, the river abruptly changed character yet again as we entered a narrow, deeply incised canyon hemmed by thick bush. Around a sharp bend appeared the substantial waterfall the guide had predicted. It wasn’t apparent how to scale this beast and certainly no trail could be detected on the side the guide recommended. But a careful scan of the true left’s mossy bank revealed a few handholds - it was good to be going up, not down, that’s for sure.

A short distance on was another waterfall (the guide was a bit ambiguous on this point; in fact there were four waterfalls in all) with an equally sketchy ascent. After the last waterfall the guide redeemed itself, cautioning not to climb out up the shingle slide but to continue around the next bend where the exit was marginally easier and a line of waratahs led to the ridge top. From there it was a short hop (a little under two hours from Top Gorge) back to Longview where new arrivals had a welcome fire blazing. Did I mention the genius lean-to doubling as a wood storage and dry place to change out of sopping clothes and muddy boots?

As for the hunters, they said it was the best day out in the Ruahine Range they’d ever had. The bacon tasted pretty good too.

Party members
Sarah White (leader), Franz Hubmann, Paul McCredie (scribe)

Page last modified on 2024 Jul 03 00:19

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